Cricket

IPL 2020: All hail 'crazy' Kings XI Punjab as Sunrisers Hyderabad pay price for their ineptitude

  • Yash Jha
  • October 25th, 2020
  • 10:22:37 IST

One run needed off three balls… and the match ends in a tie.

51 needed off 18 balls… and a hitherto unheralded batsman goes on a six-spree to secure the highest successful chase in the tournament’s history.

22 needed off 18 balls, with nine wickets in hand… and the chasing team contrives to lose by two runs.

11 needed off 18 balls, and two off six, with nine wickets in hand… and the chasing team contrives to win the game with a last-ball six (just).

A double Super Over.

A crazy, unprecedented year. A crazy, unprecedented IPL.

One team, somehow, has been at the heart of the craziest, most unprecedented events we’ve witnessed this IPL. And on Saturday evening, the kings of crazy added another chapter of insanity to their manic manual.

Sunrisers Hyderabad, after holding Kings XI Punjab down to 126/7, were 52 without loss at the end of the Powerplay. They needed 75 from 84 balls, with 10 wickets in hand. A four-over hiccup later, they still only needed 57 from 60 balls, with seven wickets in hand. Then 30 from 30. And then 20 from 18, with six wickets remaining.

How Sunrisers managed to lose by 12 runs from there, only they know. Well, them and the team they were up against.

Last three overs: 7/6. Don’t rub your eyes. This was ‘peak 2020’, as they’d call it on social media. Or was it just SRH doing to KXIP what KXIP had been doing to themselves all along?

But it wasn’t the first choke of the season for Sunrisers; heck, it wasn’t even their first death-overs harakiri against Kings XI this season.

In the return fixture, also played at Dubai, on 8th October, SRH were 160/0 after 15 overs (and KXIP, at that point, had gone wicketless for more than 36 overs), before losing five wickets in the next four overs. Still, they were able to finish with 201 – and win quite comfortably.

This, however, was a game that was virtually impossible to botch up, 37 overs into the contest. Crucially, this was also a game of significantly greater importance; a chance to become the clear second in a (seemingly) three-horse race for the fourth qualifying spot.

Therein also lies a sense of catharsis that’s surely being felt in the Kings XI camp. Just look at the end outcomes of their six bouts of insanity so far at IPL 2020, as listed above; they lost the first three, they won the last three.

By no stretch of imagination should we call this ‘peaking at the right time’ – because even the staunchest of KXIP admirers will agree there is no credible ‘peak’ that they’ve hit in these miracle matches. But in a season as crazy and in a mid-table scramble as claustrophobic as this one, Kings XI find themselves in an advantageous switch of seating: they’ve gone from losing games that were impossible to lose to winning games that were impossible to win.

And here’s the larger issue, SRH fans: your three remaining games come against the three teams fighting to ensure a top-two finish, in Delhi Capitals, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, in that order. KXIP, on the other hand, face a potentially decisive rubber against Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday – followed by games versus basement dwellers Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings.

All of a sudden, the harakiris of Hyderabad seem so much costlier than the pitfalls of Punjab. In their season opener against RCB, chasing 164, SRH had managed to slide from 121/2 to 153 all out in the span of 27 balls; two weeks back, defending 159, they had the Royals on the ropes at 78/5 in 12 overs, but allowed Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia to turn the tide.

Let’s not make this all about the suicidal attempt at the chase though; while SRH paid the price for their ineptitude in the second half of the innings, the choke was applied by an inspiring team effort from KXIP – all-the-more praiseworthy given that their best bowler, Mohammed Shami, was bowled out by the ninth over (and was also, numbers-wise, their least impressive performer on the day).

The obvious correlation to their late-season resurgence is the return of Chris Gayle (why not, made for the headlines, written in the stars et al). But Murugan Ashwin has only featured in six out of 11 games, and five of those have been the five games that KXIP have won. And in those five wins, he’s contributed seven wickets – including AB de Villiers, Aaron Finch, Shreyas Iyer and Jonny Bairstow – while leaking only 7.33 runs per over. He’s bowled 40 dots, and only been hit for two sixes, in 108 balls.

Fellow leggie Ravi Bishnoi was the silent knife in the spine of the SRH chase, delivering 14 dots and conceding only 13 runs – there have been only five more economical spells all season. Oh, and he dismissed David Warner.

Arshdeep Singh – sum total of three T20 appearances before IPL 2020 – is hoping all his overs are death overs to Sunrisers Hyderabad batsmen. In two such outings, while bowling between overs 16 to 20, the 21-year-old has given away 20 runs off 23 balls – while picking up five wickets, out of a tournament tally of nine.

And then there’s Chris Jordan. The man who bore the maximum brunt of the season-opening loss – 30 runs off the 20th over while bowling, then a full-toss hit straight to the fielder with one needed off the final ball. It was a proper match-losing display. Just as much as Saturday was a proper match-winning effort: three wickets for 11 runs while bowling the 17th and 19th overs, only 17 runs from his four overs all told, and two solid catches.

If IPL 2020 is the theatre of the bizarre, Kings XI Punjab are its protagonists. Central to all the drama, binding the narrative together. And hanging on, by a thread – within each game, as well as in the context of the larger picture.

There’s reason to fear this protagonist, though. As if beating the three clear front-runners back-to-back wasn’t enough, their latest manic moment comes on a day their most impactful batsman wasn’t playing and their most impactful bowler had an off-day.

All hail, the Kings! Beware, of the Kings!

Updated Date: October 25, 2020 10:22:37 IST

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